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5 Things Not to Do During Your Pet’s Cancer Treatment

Discovering that your pet is battling cancer can be heart-wrenching. Navigating the treatment options can feel overwhelming, leaving you with a mix of emotions and uncertainty about the best path forward for your beloved companion. It’s natural to want to do everything possible to support your pet during this challenging time, but sometimes, despite our best intentions, our actions may inadvertently hinder their progress. Here are five things to steer clear of during your pet’s cancer treatment journey to ensure they receive the best care possible.

Avoid starting your pet on any supplements or medications before talking to your primary veterinarian and/or veterinary oncologist.

Prior to starting your pet on any supplements or medications, it’s crucial to consult with your primary veterinarian and/or veterinary oncologist. You may feel tempted to introduce supplements, vitamins, or other medications to bolster your pet’s immune system and aid them through their cancer treatments. However, many supplements lack regulation, and their contents may be inconsistent. Despite being labeled as “natural,” these products could potentially interact unfavorably with your pet’s prescribed medications, undermining the effectiveness of chemotherapy and causing harm to your pet’s health.

It’s worth noting that some chemotherapy drugs used in veterinary medicine are derived from plants, thus also classified as natural substances. The interactions between various natural substances, including conventional medicine and alternative supplements, are unpredictable. Veterinarians who cannot assure the safety of combining these substances will candidly discuss their concerns and offer guidance on the best course of action.

For further insights into the potential risks associated with combining supplements and chemotherapy, refer to “Dietary Supplements and Cancer Treatment: A Risky Mixture.”

Don’t overfeed your pet.

Avoid overfeeding your pet, especially if they have cancer. Cats, in particular, may experience a loss of appetite during treatment due to the disease and its effects. Veterinarians often relax dietary restrictions for such pets, allowing a wider range of foods including those typically not recommended, such as fast food. However, for pets whose appetites remain unaffected, overfeeding or offering unusual foods can lead to gastrointestinal issues. This may be mistaken for treatment-related problems, causing confusion about the appropriate course of action. Additionally, overfeeding can lead to weight gain, exacerbating existing health issues like orthopedic problems and increasing the risk of cardiorespiratory diseases. While it’s natural to want to comfort your pet during difficult times, it’s better to provide attention, toys, and activities instead of indulging them with calorie-rich foods.

Don’t be a loner.

Avoid isolating yourself. Some people may criticize your decision to treat your pet’s cancer, accusing you of selfishness or causing them undue suffering. Personally, I’ve faced numerous criticisms suggesting that treating pets with cancer is akin to “torture.” Such negative feedback can make you feel alone and uncertain about your choices. However, it’s important to realize that there are many others like you who opt to treat their pets and who can offer valuable support and guidance. These individuals can serve as a wealth of information and lend a listening ear for your concerns, questions, and frustrations.

Numerous pet owners who have navigated cancer treatment for their pets are willing to share their experiences and advice. Whether through personal interactions or online communities like Tripawds, which caters to owners of pets with three or fewer limbs, you can find valuable resources and connections to guide you through decisions like limb amputation for bone tumors.

Skip the dog park (but only at the specific times outlined by your veterinary oncologist).

Consider avoiding the dog park, but only during specific times as advised by your veterinary oncologist. Pets undergoing chemotherapy may experience temporary decreases in their white blood cell counts after treatment. During these vulnerable periods, their immune systems are weakened, making them more susceptible to infections. While the risk of illness is generally low, it’s important to take precautions to minimize exposure to new pathogens. This might involve occasionally skipping visits to the dog park or groomer, or keeping your outdoor cat indoors for a short time. Additionally, it’s crucial to minimize stress during these periods of lowered immune defenses. This could mean limiting houseguests, whether two or four-legged, especially if your pet becomes anxious in such situations. If you’re traveling, consider hiring a pet sitter to stay at your home rather than boarding your pet, or take your pet with you to avoid separation anxiety.

While these challenges may temporarily affect your pet’s quality of life, it’s important to remember that these changes are temporary and will only last for a few days following certain medical treatments your pet undergoes.

Don’t be afraid to ask your vet questions.

Don’t hesitate to ask your vet questions. You’ll likely have numerous inquiries about your pet’s condition and treatment plan, and it’s crucial to have these addressed promptly and effectively. You might not think of all your questions right away, so jotting them down as they arise is key.

While the internet can offer valuable information, online writers don’t know your pet personally. Your veterinarian and/or veterinary oncologist are the most reliable sources for addressing your concerns. No question should be considered insignificant, and if you feel that your needs or your pet’s needs aren’t being met, speak up. This empowers you to make informed decisions about your pet’s care and feel assured about the plan in place.

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